by syaffolee

Reading Habits

Another way to track reading habits is to look at which section in the bookstore or library you gravitate toward first when you enter. By gravitate, I mean standing in front of the shelves, looking at covers, and reading the titles and summaries. Yes, stores and libraries often put bestsellers and new books at the front to stop patrons in their tracks, but let’s disregard that for a minute because everyone to some degree notices shiny, new things.

Four years ago, I would have said with fair confidence that I would go to the science fiction and fantasy section of a store first and rarely look at any of the other genres. One year ago, I would have been seen browsing the literature and mainstream fiction sections instead. And now, well, I’m mostly at the bargain bin.

One could say that my tastes are less picky and have cheapened considerably. In one sense, yes, but the main reason for this would have to go to my pocketbook. But on a different level, I have become extremely picky. I no longer go to bookstores and libraries (most of the time, anyway) to inhale the scent of paper and ink–I’m there because I already know what I want to get. I would have to blame this particular problem on the internet with its superior search capabilities and databases of reviews and summaries and for society for making me feel guilty of wasting time.

Blog reading, however, is a more haphazard endeavor. When I first began reading blogs, I was in a complete vacuum except for perhaps a few other semi-serious novelists. I knew about webrings, though, and it was fairly easy to find webrings of bloggers. But for a person like me, it was exactly the wrong route to go. Many of the blogs I found on webrings were written by confrontational riot grrls and angsty teenagers. This wasn’t necessary bad, mind you (one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and all that), but it was a lot like reading the telephone directory.

The turning point was when I decided to research the origin of the term “blog.” I found Rebecca Blood’s essay on the history of the weblog which not only answered my question but also reassured me that online confessionals was not the sole purpose of the blog. From there, I read the popular blogs and slowly stumbled into a strange clique of late 20’s to early 30’s bloggers obsessed with juvenile humor and hit mongering–another dead end (although I have to admit that some of them were on my blogroll for a while).

There were also some review sites. Although most are run by teenagers dedicated to making people feel good, a few reviewers were actually honest about what they thought were good or bad blogs. So I read reviewed blogs. At about the same time, I also began participating in the now defunct Blogger Insider that paired bloggers up randomly to interview each other. This was a great idea to allow bloggers to find out more about each other and to find new reads. I was quite disappointed when the project was discontinued due to some bloggers not reciprocating the interview process.

Recently, the blog equivalent for gravitating toward a certain section have been looking up blogs of people who are geographically close to me or have similar academic interests. I posted several months ago a list of blogs on campus. Last night, I stumbled on yet another campus blog aggregator: Dartblogs which began last month. This was inspired by the Harvard Weblogs Project. (Of course, it might also be due in part to Dave Winer‘s idea for Citizen Bloggers in New Hampshire–interesting, but too topical and narrow for the long-term.)

An article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, Scholars Who Blog (via Daypop) is yet another find that includes directories to blogs with academic interests. But with quotes like these:

“Almost all are in public policy, law, or the social sciences; only 14 of the blogs in Mr. Farrell’s directory are by scholars in the humanities or natural sciences.”

It makes me wonder if I have stumbled onto another dead end. (In his defense, Henry Farrell says: “I strongly suspect that the dearth of humanities and natural sciences bloggers in my list is in part an artefact of my weak ties networks – I’m more likely to come across social scientists’ and lawyers’ blogs than I am, for example, computer scientists’ writings.”)